A weekend spent in England’s north-east24th July 2017
The previous posting on this blog may have been a sunnier reprise of a walk that I did before, but what I describe here is not of that ilk. Firstly, I decided to stay in Newcastle on a Saturday night. Though my initial explorations along the Tyne were done after dark, I liked enough of what I saw that another visit would not go amiss. On Sunday, I took myself off to Bamburgh to see its famous castle and walk from there to Belford, enjoying bright sunshine for much of the time.
Initial notes on here updated my recollection of this trip. For instance, I never recall having played with the idea of a weekend among the Brecon Beacons or that a delayed start put paid to notions of a walk around Rothbury that took in nearby Simonside. What I remember much more clearly is what actually happened.
For one thing, there was an overnight stay in Newcastle that allowed for a bit of strolling along the banks of the River Tyne. It was then that I got to realise just how near Newcastle and Gateshead actually are and that the former of these is a not unpretty place. It helps that there has been some urban regeneration with a new footbridge across the river and that a tower belonging to the castle giving the place its name still stands in spite of the depredations of railway building.
Much of my wandering took place after dark so I made it my business to see things in the morning light before I headed north the next day. Still, seeing everywhere lit up has its appeal too and there were plenty about the place. It was not only those out for the night on the town, for a cancer charity was holding a night walk and I made it my business to be out of the way before that hoard set off on its way. The repeated booming of the line “Stand up to Cancer” was a little too extrovert for my tastes but it still told me that I had time before the charity stroll was to begin. In the event, I was largely out of the way before things really got going, so my own amble was a pleasant one.
After that quick morning stroll along the Tyne, it was time for me to get to Berwick-upon-Tweed by train. It would have been more complicated if I had been going to Scotland because there were engineering works between Berwick and Edinburgh so it was just as well that my sights were on Northumberland instead.
Before travelling onward from Berwick by bus, I took the chance to potter around the place in the morning sunshine, peering at its bridges as I did so. Then, it was time to continue to Bamburgh where its castle awaited. It did not take long to find once there since Bamburgh is not at all large and it is situated atop a hillock.
Rather than going into see the castle on a wonderful sunny day, I opted to stroll around it instead. First, I headed a little south along the road and crossed to the beach through grassy dunes. Only the faded colours of the grasses gave any hint that this was autumn and not summer. Given where the sun was at the time, this also was the best vantage point for photos with good lighting and I was to find that the usual photos that you see published need to be made at another time of day, more likely morning.
It was when I got onto the beach that I was to discover that last fact, but there were other sights to see. In hindsight, it might have been better to have had a camera with a telephoto lens for some of these. Even capturing views of the Inner Farne would have been helped but it was the more distant ones of a well lit Lindisfarne where the usefulness really would have been seen. Still, it was good to get what I got and to savour what lay about me anyway.
It was around Harkess Rocks where I was to see the classic view of Bamburgh Castle and realise that this was not the time for my own version of such an image. It was no disappointment given what I had got from the day already and I was about to rejoin the Northumberland Coast Path that was set to carry me all the way to Belford.
That conveyed me around the coast as far as Budle Bay while largely avoiding the Bamburgh Castle Golf Club course before I was directed inland towards the B1342. That gave me a chance to look back at the castle where my walk began and it had fallen into cloud shadow. Since I was to head downhill from Galliheugh Bank, this was to be my last sighting for the day.
The sea was not to be seen much as I headed for Spindlestone Heughs by footpath and road. Near Outchester, I got to see more of the sea again, but there also was a curiosity in the form of an old windmill called the Outchester Ducket. The word “ducket” is a local form of dovecot, so that makes the name an unusual one for what is now a building let out as tourist accommodation.
Passing Outchester Farm led me along quiet roads and public rights of way towards the East Coast Mainline that I had to cross to reach Belford. Rather than over a bridge as might be found on the West Coast Mainline, this crossing went straight across the tracks, a striking thought given the chance of an accident. Before making my crossing, I used the provided phone to check if I could cross and did the same on the other side to let them know that I was safely across. The latter was as much for the sake of courtesy as anything else.
After that, Belford was near at hand under cloudy skies with more industrial surroundings for company for much of the last stretch of what had been a pleasing walk with much bright sunshine. It is how Bamburgh Castle and how the nearby coastline looked in the sun that is what I remember. It was a much-needed interlude of brightness in a life with a lot that was happening.
Train journey from Macclesfield to Newcastle with an overnight stop before continuing by train from Newcastle to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Outbound bus journey from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Bamburgh followed by a return bus journey from Belford to Berwick-upon-Tweed before going from there to Macclesfield.
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